Florida Genealogy Resources

Florida History Timeline

  • 1498-1500 – Europeans first saw the Florida Coast
  • 1513 – The Spanish colonial presence began with the landing of Juan Ponce de Leon at Eastertide in 1513, ninety-four years before the British settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. Spanish Florida ultimately embraced all of the present state and much of the Gulf Coast, including large parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
  • 1528 -Panfilo de Narvaez visited Tampa and Tallahassee areas.
  • 1539 – Hernando de Soto landed in Tampa Bay area and wintered in Tallahassee while on trek throughout the Southeast.
  • 1559 – Tristan de Luna established a colony on the shores of Pensacola Bay, abandoned two years later.
  • 1562 – Jean Ribault searched for a site for a French Huguenot colony near mouth of St. Johns River.
  • 1564 – French Huguenots settled Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River near present-day Jacksonville. 
  • 1565 – The Spanish reacted immediately, by establishing St. Augustine in 1565 as the first permanent European settlement in America, immediately destroying Fort Caroline.  After further hostilities, France soon abandoned designs on peninsular Florida. 
  • 1570 – First citrus groves in Florida planted in St. Augustine.
  • 1586 – Sir Francis Drake sacked and burned St. Augustine.
  • 1590 – Franciscan missionaries active near St. Augustine.
  • 1603 – Mission chain started along coast and across peninsula toward the Apalachee.
  • 1650 – Missions extended to the Apalachicola River.
  • 1650 – Fort Matanzas built.
  • 1672-1698 – Castillo de San Marcos completed.
  • 1702-1704 – British raided Spanish settlements and destroy missions
  • 1715 – Spanish Plate Fleet wrecked off southeast Florida coast.
  • 1733 – Spanish Plate Fleet wrecked off Florida Keys.
  • 1738-1740 – Fort Mose established, first legally sanctioned free black community in what is now the United States.
  • 1740 – British invaded Florida, native populations diminished.
  • 1762 – England was again at war with French and by 1761, Spain, fearful that a French defeat could damage its own colonial interests, finally took sides with France, but it was too late. 
  • 1763 – Treaty of Paris ended French and Indian War, Spain ceded Florida to Britain in exchange for the capture of city of Havana, Cuba.
  • 1765 – British East Florida reached from the Atlantic to the Apalochicola River; British West Florida ran from the Apalchicola to the Mississippi. In 1765, England sent Surveyor General William Gerard de Brahm and royal Botanist John Bartram to the new possession and offered bounties, land grants, and other inducements to settlers. Thus East and West Florida remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution, and St Augustine became crowded with Tory refugees from Georgia and the Carolinas.
  • 1768 – British sugar, citrus, rice, and indigo plantations established.
  • 1768 – Turnbull Colony at New Smyrna established, but abandoned in 1777.
  • 1770s – Creeks from Georgia and Alabama, later called Seminoles, entered Florida.
  • 1774  – Naturalist William Bartram described archaeological sites like Mt. Royal.
  • 1776-1781 – Florida colonies remained loyal to Britain during the American Revolution.
  • 1781 – Spain captured Pensacola from Britain which two years later exchanged both Floridas for the Bahama Islands. For a decade after the American revolution there were sporadic Spanish-America border disputes until the Pinckney Treaty of 1795 fixed the 31st parallel as the northern boundary of West Florida and gave the United States undisputed control of an area that now comprises nearly a third of Alabama and Mississippi.
  • 1783 – Florida returned to Spain, in exchange for Bahamas and Gibraltar.
  • 1783-1821 – Border disputes between Spain and United States.
  • 1810 – British occupied Pensacola, but were driven out by Andrew Jackson in 1813.
  • 1817-1818 – First Seminole War
  • 1821 – United States acquired Florida from Spain by treaty. 
  • 1821 – Congress provided for a territorial governor, territorial courts, and a thirteen-member legislative council.  
  • 1821  – Florida’s first two counties were established on 21 July 1821. 
  • 1824 – Tallahassee established as territorial capital.
  • 1830s – Steamboats brought settlers
  • 1834-1837 – Florida’s first railroads began operations
  • 1835-1842 – Second Seminole War, first reservations established
  • 1845 – Florida admitted to the Union as a state.
  • 1856-1858 – Third Seminole War ceased, ending Wars of Indian Removal east of the Mississippi River.
  • 1861-1865 – Civil War, Florida ws part of the Confederacy, Battle of Olustee fought in 1864.
  • 1887 – Eatonville, oldest intact incorporated black community in the United States, established.
  • 1894-95 – Freezes destroyed citrus crops, and citrus cultivation moves south.
  • 1896 – Frank Cushing discovered Key Marco Site in Collier County.
  • 1898 – Spanish-American War; Florida was major embarkation point.
  • 1900s – Greek immigrants arrived and settled mostly in Tarpon Springs.
  • 1901 – Great Fire destroyed downtown Jacksonville.
  • 1905-1912 – Construction of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad to Key West.
  • 1928 – Devastating hurricane hit South Florida.
  • 1935 – Overseas Railroad (destroyed in 1928 earthquake) converted to highway.
  • 1950 – First American rocket launch from Cape Canaveral.
  • 1958 – Free World’s first earth satellite, Explorer I, launched from Cape Canaveral.

Researchers should be aware that county boundaries changed frequently during three time periods: after the change of ownership from Spain to the U.S in 1821; after 1900, when the railroad was completed on the East Coast of Florida; and during the ‘Land Boom,’ which began right after World War I. The last four counties were created in 1925.1

Floria Vital Records

The Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics is the agency responsible for maintaining vital records for all vital events occurring in Florida.

  • 1917 to Present – all birth and death records and some older records that date back to 1865. 
  • June 1927 to present – all marriage and divorce records. 
  • Death records begin about 1877, but the first state law mandating registration of deaths was passed in 1899. Records before 1917 are spotty.  It is best to check with the state office first, and if no record is found, then you should check with the local office.

Delayed birth certificates are issued either by a court or administratively through Vital Statistics, to those whose births were never recorded with the Bureau of Vital Statistics.  Generally, the first year of delayed registration began in approximately 1942.

Florida adoption records are sealed The origianl papers are filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the couty where the adoption took place. Medical background on the firth family is given to the adoptive family at adoption. Since 1982, the Florida Adoption Reunion REgistry was established to reunite people affected by adoption.1

Florida Census Records

Federal Population Schedules

  • Indexed—1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1885 (see below), 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940
  • Soudex—1880, 1900, 1910 (Miracode). (You can find definition of Soundex at FamilySearch.org wiki at https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Soundex).
Industry and Agriculture Schedules
  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1885
Mortality Schedule
  • 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1885, 1890, 1895, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 
Slave Schedules
  • 1850, 1860

1885 Census

In 1879, Congress passed an act that provided some funding for any state or territory to conduct a census in 1885. Florida was one of the five states or territories that took advantage of this pooortunity, and it includes the special schedules: mortality, agriculture, and manufacturing.  Arrangement within the schedules is bu enumeration district, precinct, or city. An every-name index with 312,551 names is given in William T. Martin and Partricia Martin, 1885 Florida State Census Index (Miami: W.T. & P. Martin, 1991). Four Florida counties are missing: Alachua, Clay, Columbia, and Nassau.

Spanish Period

The Spanish took a number of censuses during their periods of colonial control (1565-1763 and 1783-1821). Most have been published, though some may be hard to find. ‘The 1783 Spanish Census of Florida’ was translated and published in four consecutive issues of the Georgia Genealogical Magazine, beginning with no. 39 (Winter 1971). Approximately one-quarter of the census is available online. (Search for ‘Florida Census 1783.’) Refer to the Red Book Florida Census section for more resources. The link to the Florida Section of the online Red Book is provided in the resource links below. The Census Records for Florida section can be accessed from the right column links.1


The Ligislative Council met in 1824 and approved an act to take a census in each of the counties of the Territory. Only a fragment of Leon County exists today. The information listed includes the name of the head of the family and the number of household members, including slaves. The census fragment was printed in The Florida Historical Quarterly 22 (1943): 34-40 by Dorothy Dodd, as ‘The Florida Census of 1825’ and is also available online at http://sites.rootsweb.com/~flleon/1825cens.htm.

State Census

The state of Florida conducted its own censuses in 1845, 1855, 1867, 1875, 1885, 1935, and 1945. The state census was abolished in 1949. Only the following fragments of the early one remain at the Florida State Archives.

  • 1845—Alachua, Benton, Columbia, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Madison, Marion, orange, St. Johns, Walton, Wakulia and Washington counties.  The enumeration does not list the names of the inhabitants, only the number of inhabitants, male, females, slaves etc. grouped by age.
  • 1855—Marion County only.  Includes name of head of family and number in household, including slaves. Grouped by age and sex.
  • 1867—Franklin, Hernando, Madison, Orange, and Santa Rosa counties only.  The books of enumeration have separate listings for ‘colored’ and white inhabitants. Both include the name of the head of the family, and number of males and females in age groups.
  • 1875—Alachua County only. Includes the name, age, sex, and race of all those persons lsited. For some entries, other information is provided, including occupation, the value of real estate, the value of personal property, the number of acres planted in cotton, the number of acrs planted in cane, and the number of orange trees.
  •  1885—Leon County only. The information recorded includes the name, age, sex, adn race of those persons enumerated. The enumeration is segregated by race.
  • 1895—Nassau County only. (Published by Jacksonville Genealogical Society)
  • 1935—complete state
  • 1945—complete state

Special Census

  • 1855 and 1866—Franklin County only. This is a census of children ages five to eighteen.
  • 1896-1929—Census of youth of school age.
See FamilySearch.org – Florida Census Link below for access to online censuses.

Florida Counties Map

Florida Counties Map
Florida Counties Map

Florida Resource Links

Red Book Online Version- Florida Family History Research (access sections in right menu)

FamilySearch.org Links
Florida Census: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Florida_Census
Florida Online Genealogy Records: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Florida_Online_Genealogy_Records

Florida Census of 1825 by Dorothy Dodd

1783 Spanish Census of East Florida

Florida Department of State – Division of Library and Information Services – Genealogy

Ancestry.com Flordia Data Collections

Access Genealogy – Florida Genealogy

Florida Memory

  1. Third Edition Red Book, American State, County, and Town Sources, Edited by Alice Eichholz Ph.D., C.G., Ancestry Publishing,The Generations Network, Inc.1989, 1992, 2004.